Fort Wayne Edges Grand Rapids in Closing Seconds, 105-103
Fort Wayne, IND. - The Fort Wayne Mad Ants prevailed in the closing seconds on Sunday, 105-103, over Grand Rapids. In the first Fort Wayne win over the Drive since 12/10/18, it was Walt Lemon Jr.'s go ahead basket with 16 seconds to play and an Alize Johnson defensive strip down the floor that sealed the win.
Lemon Jr. scored a game high 25 points and added eight assists to lead Fort Wayne (20-22). He was joined in double figure scoring by Brian Bowen II with 20, Stephan Hicks with 16, Ben Moore with 15 and Daxter Miles Jr. with 13. Bowen II (4) and Moore (3) each set career records for three pointers made.
Grand Rapids (25-17), who led by eight with 2:07 to play, were paced by 20 points and 12 assists from Tra-Deon Hollins, 15 points and eight rebounds from Donta Hall and 12 points each off the bench from Khalil Iverson and Louis King. This was the sixth double-double of the season for Hollins, who stays second in the G League in assists per game.
Fort Wayne got out to a hot start, lighting up the first quarter with three pointers. The Mad Ants pulled ahead at the 8:45 mark of the opening quarter, 12-11, on a Moore three. Just over a minute later, Moore beat the shot clock with another three. By the time that Lemon Jr. buried a three with 4:52 left in the first quarter, the Mad Ants had extended their lead to 23-13.
Grand Rapids fought back from a 13 point deficit to trail by just six after the first quarter despite Fort Wayne shooting 46.2 percent from three point range (6-of-13). Lemon Jr. scored 13 points in the opening frame.
Todd Withers pushed Grand Rapids back ahead at the 9:42 mark of the second quarter with a three and Iverson added a bucket on the next possession to give Grand Rapids their biggest lead to that point at 31-28. The Mad Ants scoring drought lasted three minutes and 39 seconds before a Moore jump hook ended the 11-0 Grand Rapids run. A Hicks three pointer with 7:56 left in the second tied the game at 33 and a Miles Jr. and-one conversion at the 7:25 mark gave Fort Wayne back the lead. The Mad Ants would extend the lead back to five, 51-46, at the halftime break.
Bowen II, fresh off a stint with the Indiana Pacers, opened up the second half scoring with a triple 53 seconds in. The two teams spent the next four minutes trading baskets. At the 7:56 mark, Withers made a back door cut and scored on the find by Hollins to bring Grand Rapids back within two. On the next Drive possession, Withers, this time, found Hall for a one handed slam to tie the game. At 6:54, Hall again found his way to the rim for a lay in to push Grand Rapids back ahead 61-59 and complete an 8-0 Grand Rapids run. A King turnaround with 2:42 left in the third pushed the Drive lead to 72-69, then King pulled up for a jumper on the next play as Grand Rapids went up five. King was again the go-to guy in the third and tied the game at 77 in the closing minute.
The third quarter featured five lead changes and four ties.
Fort Wayne pulled ahead 85-82 with 9:44 left in the game on a Miles Jr. three pointer and the lead would last four and a half minutes before Hollins drove the baseline and passed the ball off to Iverson for a finish that put Grand Rapids up 92-91. The Drive gained their biggest lead of the game, 99-91, with 3:45 left with Adam Woodbury and Craig Sword each connecting with free throws after a foul and subsequent technical foul against Lemon Jr. Fort Wayne rallied back to get within two points at the 1:00 mark on a Moore finish at the rim. The intense final sequence of the game culminated in Fort Wayne taking the lead for good on Lemon's basket off a Moore screen with 16 seconds left. Grand Rapids' two final possessions each ended in a Fort Wayne steal.
The teams will rematch on Wednesday, March 11 with a 7 p.m. tipoff in Grand Rapids.
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